Paris would not be Paris without its bridges, but how well do you know them? There are 37 bridges crossing the Seine, connecting the two banks of the French capital. Here are ten of the most famous, from west to east: Pont Mirabeau, Bir-Hakeim, Alma, Alexander III, Concorde, Royal, Pont des Arts, pont Neuf, Tournelle and Charles-de-Gaulle. Whether cast iron, concrete, stone or decorated with statues, the bridges add to the charm of Paris and reflect its history and architectural wealth. The bridges take you on a journey through time.
1- Pont Mirabeau: the most poetic
"Under the Pont Mirabeau flows the Seine; As for our love..."
Art plays a part in the fame of Parisian bridges. The well known poem by Guillaume Apollinaire "Le Pont Mirabeau", published in 1913, is inscribed on the wall of the bridge and appears in songs by many artists. This metal structure of three arches connects the buildings on the Seine river front in the 15th arrondissement with the Place de Barcelone in the 16th arrondissement. And it is decorated with four bronze sculptures created by Jean-Antoine Injalbert representing the City of Paris, Commerce, Navigation and Prosperity.
2- Pont de Bir-Hakeim: A view of the Eiffel Tower!
The Pont de Bir-Hakeim is unusual because it has two storeys. One level is dedicated to line 6 of the métro, the other is for cars and bicycles in the central gallery. From the top, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower. From the middle of the bridge, continue your stroll along l'allée des Cygnes on the banks of the Seine to reach the Parisian replica of the Statue of Liberty, located by the Pont de Grenelle. But what does the name "Bir-Hakeim" mean? It refers to a strategic point in the Libyan desert where the Free French Forces fought a heroic defence against German troops in the battle of June 1942.
3- Pont de l'Alma: A Zouave and a Princess.
The structure, inaugurated by Napoleon III in 1856, is known for its famous Zouave, traditionally used in Paris to measure the height of the Seine. This stone statue pays tribute to the troops who fought in the Crimean War (1853-1856), particularly in the Battle of Alma. Since 1997, the tunnel under the Pont de l'Alma is known for the tragic car accident that killed the beloved Princess Diana. Hanging over this tunnel is the Flame of Liberty, a life-size replica of the Statue of Liberty flame. To get a really good view of it, book a hotel in the 7th arrondissement.
4- Pont Alexandre-III: the Imperial
As majestic as the emperor who gave it its name, the Pont Alexandre-III was built for the 1900 Paris Exposition. Its avant-garde architecture, baroque decoration and geographical location make it one of the most iconic in the capital. It connects the Grand Palais to the Esplanade des Invalides. With a metal structure and a single arch, it comprises 32 bronze candelabra (illuminating it perfectly at night), as well as numerous sculptures (winged divinities), groups of lions led by children, and nymphs. It's the widest bridge in Paris at 40 metres wide and 150 metres long.
Pont Alexandre III
5- Pont de la Concorde: the revolutionary
It was completed in 1790 using stones from the Bastille fortress, which was demolished following the French revolution. It was first named Pont Louis XVI, followed by "Pont de la Révolution" between 1792 and 1795 before it took its current name, Pont de la Concorde, in 1830. The statues of the twelve Great Men who decorated it were removed due to their weight. The bridge connects the Quai des Tuileries to the Place de la Concorde.
6- Pont Royal: the bridge built for safety
It was following a boat accident while crossing the Seine that Louis XIII decided to build this bridge, named Royal because it leads to the Tuileries Palace. The city's third oldest bridge (1689), after the Pont Neuf and the Pont Marie, is classified as a historic monument. The unusual thing about the Pont Royal is the simplicity of its decoration. It was depicted by Camille Pissarro in an oil on canvas painting from 1903, which can be seen at the Petit-Palais in Paris.
7- Pont des Arts: romantic yet fragile
Paris is the capital of love and the railings of the Pont des Arts were perfect for thousands of lovers to attach their love padlocks. But in 2015, all this love was becoming too heavy and the first metal bridge in the capital commissioned by Napoleon needed to be protected. Therefore, the railings were replaced by glass panels decorated by street artists. The cast iron structure, already weakened by bombings during the two world wars, collapsed in 1979 and was rebuilt in 1984. It takes its name from the Palais des Arts, the name given at the time to the Louvre, located just opposite. The chance to visit one of the most famous museums in the capital.
Pont des Arts
8- Pont Neuf: the oldest bridge
Despite its name, the Pont Neuf, or New Bridge, located to the west of the Ile de la Cité, is the oldest bridge in Paris. It dates from the end of the 16th century. It was the first bridge to completely cross the Seine, the first to be built of stone, and also the first to have a pavement for pedestrians. The statue of Henry IV had to be protected because lovers also attached their padlocks to it for several years. But for safety reasons, the city's officials had to remove 40 tons (!) of love in 2018 and auction them off. Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted the Pont Neuf on canvas in 1872.
Find a hotel in the 6th arrondissement.
9- Pont de la Tournelle: a view of Notre-Dame
Sainte-Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, is the guardian of Pont de la Tournelle. Sculpted by Paul Landowski, the statue reigns over the structure that connects the left bank to Île Saint-Louis. Incidentally, because it was finally decided that the Saint would have her back turned towards Notre-Dame, the sculptor, desperate, boycotted the inauguration in 1928.
At nightfall, go to this bridge for a breath-taking and certainly one of the most beautiful views of Notre-Dame de Paris! And for a unmissable stroll around Ile de la Cité, take a look at our guide: les promenades d'Aurélia à Paris.
10- Pont Charles-de-Gaulle: the modern bridge
Its modern look makes it unusual in the cityscape around the Seine. Between Bercy and the François Mitterrand Library, it's hard to miss with its white apron and steel wings. Built between 1993 and 1996 by architects Arretche and Karasinsky, its 18-metre-wide one-way road also has cycle paths and raised pavements allowing pedestrians to walk safely.
Did you know?
These days bridges are used as crossing points, but in the Middle Ages they were home to shops and houses - a whole suspended world! To cross its many canals, Paris also has 49 pedestrian bridges, such as those crossing the Canal Saint Martin, the Canal de L'Ourq or the Canal de La Villette.
Where to stay in Paris?
To find out more about the Seine and its bridges, choose your hotel in Paris as close as possible to the riverbank.
Author: Anne Tabourel